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YDT – Ep 116

This is you’ll die trying with Nathan Morris. You’ll die trying contain sensitive subject matter and conversation surrounding death and dying and may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is respectfully advised. Oh, it’s you. Episode 116. Season two, you’ll die trying a show which pulls back the curtain takes down the wall, brick by brick and exposes the true hearts of the funeral directors are doing what they do don’t know about you, but it takes an awful lot to keep me going throughout the day. And I get in a lot of trouble for doing so much of this. It’s drinking coffee by the gallons, or pots or cups, whatever. I mean, I’m sitting here with my corkcicle Star Wars mug. It’s delicious, filled with none other than big turkeyfoot coffee. None other than visit, you’ll die trying.com Head over to the store, get you a big old bag of it yourself. You will love it like I do. Please feel free to disregard the screaming ladies in the background. That would be the accounting department. And no, they’re not screaming over numbers. They’re literally just screaming because that’s kind of how they talk. Hey, if you didn’t already know simultaneously when you’ll die trying drops every single Thursday. So does you’ll die trying the obituary where Andrew and Micah sit and dissect each and every one of these episodes that you are hearing. And they give their spin their take their humor, and a few little bleeps about what it is they got from that episode. So be sure to subscribe to you’ll die trying the podcast and you’ll die trying the obituary podcast. Check try to say that three times fast

I had no clue which goodwill tie I’d wear to my first day to work. June 26 2010. I drove up to this sprawling building and I parked my 2001 dented up gold Lexus in a random spot entering through the back door where the florists sneakily come in to to drop off flower deliveries. You know when you send those sympathy rocks, which I still don’t understand, hey, sorry for your loss. Have a bench. I took one last look at my gray pinstripe suit that I had purchased from express in the window before I walked in. I was a grown up. Not really in the least bit. I felt like the new kid at the lunch table. Really, if you’ve ever been a new kid in school, I was like three times. But that was just because I was ridiculous and wanted to play sports. To all you new kids out there. You know what I’m talking about? He don’t know where to sit. I was working visitations for free before my official start date. And in my father in law’s defense, he actually had no clue. I never really kept hours I just wanted to learn and I would ask Megan to let me show up in a suit and stand there and smile at people. I wanted to learn everything I wanted to learn how to greet the buildings layout where things went, except for the trash bags. And we’ll get to that. First Days are so many things. What they are not, is they’re absolutely wholeheartedly not predictable. In passing. I have met some of the staff that I’m now working with Megan lives above the funeral home. So when my brothers and I would come visit and hang out we would enter through that popular flower room entry door and a staff member would be one Walking one way or another from that flower room, as they’ve recently delivered a flower for a visitation and a quick hello would be exchanged. But nothing other than that. One of the directors was actually neighbors with Aaron. So I was familiar with this person. This staff was made up of seasoned professionals, so of course, glances of who the hell is this? We’re flying at me left and right. And from adults? Yes. It’s pretty amazing. I can’t blame them. Really. I mean, career funeral directors who have made a living who’ve raised a family with this profession. They’re now sharing walls, halls and conversation with some nobody who had absolutely no business being there. I mean, it was only because of a friendship and persistence that I was. But in all reality, wasn’t it similar for these people? To who were shooting glares? How they got there. Each morning was coffee. Right at eight o’clock in the lounge, it probably started earlier. I just was never informed. And it wasn’t just 30 minutes. No, it wasn’t a strategic meeting to discuss the plan and schedule for that day’s services. No way. It was just coffee. The veteran directors they would sit and talk about favorite shows and politics and church and who did what and nothing that I had knowledge of, and nothing that I could I could participate in the median age, I believe was 66. And that 25 I just inserted myself day one, Nikki would be eating her crackers, off to the side with her smile. And Ken would fold the messenger Enquirer, newspaper, every possible way that you could fold a newspaper, unfold it, and then start all over again. I just sat after being introduced and took mental note.

Needless to say that two hour coffee meeting adjourned pretty quickly, my first day, I realized that wasn’t welcomed a group of people who have devoted their lives to making other people feel good, welcomed, honored, who called upon them, were not doing the best of jobs doing that for me. But that’s definitely for another episode. The the best and worst thing that ever happened to me on this particular day, my first day, I was paired with a director, I’ll call Stu. Stu, it’s pretty fitting really. Stu was known to be kind chummy friendly to absolutely everyone. That’s all I had heard before working with him. They were involved in every group, every organization around town known by many, never once, never once and starting on day one did I experience any of that? This man hated me, arguably, but I will be confident saying that still does actually. Just recently I saw them at a visitation and they couldn’t even look me in the eyes. I’d I’d be ashamed to I mean, sure. I was an idiot. I was clueless. I had absolutely no idea about anything regarding funeral care, anything aside from the free labor that I offered a few weeks prior with Meghan and a couple of times before that as a kid and young teen when my family actually needed the services of a funeral home. But in a big, but I was eager. I was so eager. I wanted to be the absolute best. I had age against me. I had lack of knowledge against me. I had the simple fact I was hired because of Megane against me. I was pretty doomed. As far as making friends was concerned. I had a target. On my back. The air was thick for me. I wish there was some really cool ending to this hot June 1 day. No, not really. I went home after day one realizing the Following things, one, a funeral home smelled funny. To a funeral home is dated three. There’s a lot of sitting around cash those days absolutely no longer exists for stew really doesn’t like me. Five kin is loyal. Six, I only have one suit. Days and nights have followed pivotal moments followed, like the Times a few months in Stu, he would say you need to quit, or how Nicky was this really good embalmer, and I just watch all the time and I asked more questions probably than a four year old asks, I mean, if you have a kid or or know someone who just asks, question after question after question, endearing, yes. A little overwhelming, probably. I was that she handled it with absolute grace. And when we did a lot of things, the weirdest of ways when it came to technology, this funeral home we weren’t very busy either. We conducted a couple of funerals a week and drank a ton of Maxwell House coffee. I started recognizing pretty quickly after becoming an apprentice, that we were just running through the motions of things. It was just a cookie cutter approach. Get it? Down, get it done, make sure there’s no disasters and on to the next. There was nothing magical. There were no sprinkles, pretty casket, neatly dressed person. Nice positioning vacuum lines in the carpet candles, framed photos, CD players and CDs. For this service music yes CDs. We press record on a cassette tape recorder to capture this magnificent service, drop it in a bag, a black bag, no name, no logo, nothing. And it to the family. It’s over. That’s it. As an apprentice at this point, it’s essentially the state of embalmers and funeral directors saying you can operate under the licensure of another employee and they sign off for you as your supervisor. So I am operating under Megan’s licensure my actions.

Alright, at the mercy of her licensure, meaning if I mess up, it’s on her. So, as an apprentice, I was taking mental note. And now I’m voicing my opinions and my suggestions. You see this whole thing of being ridiculed, dismissed for not being in this profession. Being in the music world. And now here I am, I’m not growing up in it was actually my biggest advantage and arguably what has gotten me where I am today. That and genuinely, wholeheartedly, never stopping my desire. I’ve wanted to learn and better and better and better myself. I was obsessed. I looked through the eyes of a consumer. As a consumer we pay for services that we want. We never question when paying for them ever. We choose services, we choose items, places, cars, hotels, based on how they made us feel. And painfully, Haley had nothing overtly special to have people leaving them feeling wowed. The families were being served. Do not get me wrong, but not the people coming to show those families love not those walking in the door. The building was dated. Outdoor carpet was indoor mural paintings on the walls, not framed paintings. We’re talking ugly 1972 painting, old stained furniture, grumpy staff, grumpy stew especially. I was put on his schedule. He wasn’t happy. I wanted to go on every death call as an apprentice. It’s where you go to the place of death, whether a residents nursing facility and you transfer that loved one into your care, traveling back to the funeral home to embalm or prepare for whichever type of service They had selected at this point, it’s just Meghan, newly licensed on kin schedule. And she’s the embalmer, and then me on the other schedule as the apprentice embalmer with Stu, I had to learn super quick in the prep room. Now we call it Care Center and quick I did every death call every embalming every family that I could serve. I did. And I’d listened to these families during arrangements. Do you offer this? Can we do this? The other funeral homes do? Or crap? I mean, I don’t. I don’t. But I want to do something. I don’t want to do what they do. Because they do it. I want to do something they do plus, and I want to do it better. I come up with all these ideas. And I’d run them by Mike my now father in law. I just wouldn’t stop pushing. We were the only funeral home with no answering service. an answering service is the service that you would forward your phone calls to because funeral cares 24 hours after five o’clock, and they would answer the phones. They would filter out all the Hey, do you have Joe Smith in your care? They would answer those questions and they would free up the funeral directors who are on call the time to just take care of the emergent immediate needs. No, not us. Now we sat by a landline phone. This is seriously the technology that we had. When we ultimately transitioned. at&t did not know how to disconnect the service because it was so antiquated. That’s fact we couldn’t go to grocery store. We couldn’t go to a ballgame. Unless your partner was literally sitting by this landline. It was ridiculous. And I remember like it was yesterday the fight over a steak meal at Mike’s house when asking if we could please do an answering service. This statement, oh, this statement? We’ve always done it this way.

Never again, that statement? No, no. And Mike’s defense though he done everything himself. Seriously since 1962. He’s kept the ship sailing. He became president here in 1978. He had to answer to owners and stockholders 36 By the way 36 stockholders to be exact. And stockholders basically it’s a fancy way to say hey, we invested in this company, and we’re going to take dividends so he bought them all out. In 1998. He served two terms as coroner to not just one two, I think he and heritage a term. He waited on every family. He embalmed. Every loved one he conduct all the funerals people wanted mike, mike, mike, mike mike, I would venture to say confidently that he earned his stripes. He was tired. And years of doing something alone as a leader. It doesn’t offer too much extra opportunity to work on the carpet, the flow the experience for those who call upon you. printed materials, value offerings, vendor relationships, key people, processes, products grounds. I mean, it all fell by the wayside. By this time, now. I’m licensed. Megan and I are married Mike, finally and literally throws up his hands after years of hey, what about this? What about that was said in his office and said, You do it. He gave Megan and I a shot at turning the ship around. We were once the premiere location, serving the majority of our community that we love. And now we’re serving the least amount of families. People were not coming back. That was scary. We became brutally honest with ourselves, we made lists. We admitted so many mistakes to ourselves. And then we hit reset. Starting with our people, we created policy. We began to focus on our words. Words matter. Especially in this line of care. We focused on the arrangement conference. That’s the dreaded appointment of scheduling a funeral of someone that you love and that is where that takes place. No one was To do these, so how do we make them interactive with families? How do we make the families sit with someone that they want to actually assist? We did this. We listened, we directed funeral director, we gave ideas. We included surprises for the family with when they arrived for this private family. Our that’s very common. It’s where families come one hour before the public, that’s where they have their private time they make sure that everything in which they requested is carried out. Favorite candles, male staff would wear the loved one we were serving favorite color on their tie. We stopped just putting your traditional casket sprays together on caskets we made sprays out of this loved one sunflower field, or their tobacco leafs or from their homegrown gardens, we would display an array of tomatoes and other vegetables. That was the spray. And not to mention we would put a handmade wagon that would be toted around the garden and filled it with vegetables. We tackled phone etiquette. Did you know this and I don’t think you do. An absurd percentage of people will only have a personal experience with a funeral home employee via the phone until services are actually needed where someone has died. So that experience mattered. We focus on phone experiences like crazy. And something as simple as we thanked people for trusting us. We wrote handwritten letters to families, thanking them for calling upon us. My late grandfather Frank said that the art of a handwritten letter is dying. Don’t let it die.

We stayed in touch with people. Long after the funeral. We made sure to remind them they were remembered. After the phones it was being involved attending the bereavement meals after the funerals you know how the churches love to get together. And everybody and every sweet little old white haired lady brings a dish and that’s delicious food, we would attend them. It was actively educating families the value of pre planning. Educated people make educated decisions slowly but surely people began to feel safe with us. We got involved with children and teenagers. The McDonald’s mentality and approach is not rocket science. You get them while they’re young. Which if you look at all the commercials, all the ads, what are they doing? They are appealing to children. Mom, let’s go eat there. Let’s turn into a teenager because they will and they love the fries as teens. They love them as adults. same mentality. Being genuine. Genuinely being involved with kids. And pulling back the curtain. We developed a way to show what actually happens when someone calls upon us not out of fear. And not to scare but to educate. We embraced technology. Funeral Services, this is ridiculous is one of the most set in their ways profession. It’s not about just one of these things or a couple it is about all of these things. Starting with being honest. That we have now turned a corner. I mean, I just summarized my first three years and a few minutes. A lot happened in between there. People came people went loved ones died. babies were born. And now here I am. Paraphrasing 10 years 10 funeral homes later and am I proud? I will tell you this. You are like the company you keep at work at home. We have since attracted the best of the best. In a world post pandemic, where the complaint is, we can’t find anyone. I want to push back and say

they’re out there. They’re just finding the best place I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of myself. Dr. Carol always says to claim your strengths. And I am voicing now. I am so glad that I was not born into this profession hey, look, they always say honesty is the best policy. I’ll probably get a little

you know, I’ll get a little pushback on this one. But I just wanted to paint a picture of all of the things that have been overcome to get where I am and I’m sure it is something that you’re familiar with in some form or fashion. Anyway, I appreciate you. Thank you very much for joining me here today. Hey, meet me on Instagram at Nathan Morris at Nathan Morris on Twitter doesn’t mean you’ll die trying.com Subscribe to this podcast and head right on over to you’ll die trying the obituary. latest episode talking about this episode and probably making fun of me is streaming right this very moment. As always, your I loved far more than you could ever know. 117 I’ll see you there.